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Language and Communication read short vowel sounds in regular words  This resource has been viewed by a moderator.


To use correct vowels in the middle of phonetically regular words when reading and writing.

Early years skill:not specified
Early years typical range:not specified
P-scales/Curriculum skill:English Reading
P-scales/Curriculum level:L2c
TAP skill:Reading
TAP level:TAP64
Pre/Nat. Curriculum Area:not specified
Pre/Nat. Curiculum Standard:not specified
Section:Primary (5-11yrs) info
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Activity/strategy name and materials required How to do the activity Key principles for doing the activity and comments
Using fingers to learn the 'short' vowel sounds

A (non-toxic!) pen

A pencil or other form of pointer

1. Using the pen, on each finger/thumb pad of your non writing hand, write one vowel starting with 'a' on the thumb and continuing with 'e', 'i', 'o' and finishing with 'u' on the little finger.

2. Ascertain your child's non-writing hand and write on each finger pad one of the vowels again starting with the 'a' on the thumb and finishing with 'u' on the little finger.

3. The child watches you model pointing to a finger/thumb pad of your hand and then clearly and accurately sounds the appropriate short vowel (see comments).

4. Hold your hand in a position that can be seen by both the child and yourself. Ask the child to indicate, using a pencil, a finger/vowel. You clearly and accurately, sound the vowel indicated.

5. Reverse the procedure by having the child hold their hand, palm up, while you indicate with a pencil, which vowel you wish them to sound. Even if you cannot see the actual written vowel, you will know which vowel is on each pad (a source of interest to some children).

6. Correct any inaccurate sounds immediately and keep the praise going for correct soundings.

7. Mix up the order of the vowels you ask the child to say. Don't just focus on confused or problematic vowels.

8. Try reversing roles back again by having the child indicate which vowel sound you must supply (as in 4. above).

9. The class teacher or teaching assistant will need to write the vowels on the child's hand in the same order at the start of each new day, and periodically check that they are still legible. With older, or well co-ordinated younger children, the child can write the vowels for themselves but the adult will need to check their order and legibility.

10. Encourage the use of referring to their 'finger vowels' when spelling, either in the course of writing or when spelling words in isolation (e.g. a spelling check).

11. Use the above activities (but mainly activity number 5) daily and encourage the child to look at their 'finger vowels' when reading words featuring previously confused or insecure vowels.

12. The aim is to make a strong link between each 'short' vowel sound and a particular finger or thumb of their non-writing hand. Eventually the child no longer need to have vowels written on their finger/thumb pads. S/he will then need to simply glance at the respective finger/thumb in order to access the accurate sound for the vowel associated with that finger/thumb.

The short vowels:

'a' as in cat;

'e' as in bed;

'i' as in sit;

'o' as in 'top';

'u' as in 'cup'

This is a multi-sensory method to instil a sensory correspondence between 'short' vowel sounds (vowel phonemes) and certain digits of their non-writing hand. Once established the child needs only to glance at their hand or even just visualise it, in order to retrieve the correct sound (phoneme) and thereby assist reading and spelling abilities.

You will need to be sensitive to individual preferences or any cultural practices of your pupil(s) or their parents/guardians. Deter children from sucking their fingers or thumbs.

Always label the vowels starting with an 'a' on the thumb. This is also consistent with how vowels are signed in British Sign Language and in key word signing systems such as Signalong and Makaton. This consistency will also give you another way to help the child remember the vowels as you could ask the child to think of the 'thumb vowel' for 'a', the 'middle finger vowel' for 'i' and so on.

Speed it up when appropriate to improve automaticity (or simply have fun by being unrealistically fast!)

Keep it light, keep it fun!

Phonemes and graphemes

A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound that can make a difference in meaning. For example the sounds 'b' and 'h' are both phonemes in the words 'bed' and 'head' because changing just those sounds will make a difference in meaning to the word you say.

A grapheme is the letter or letters which are used to write down phonemes. For example the underlined letters in the words 'bed' and 'head' are both graphemes for the short 'e' sound.

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